Chinese state media said that the Corona testing conditions applied by several countries around the world due to the increase in Corona infections in China are “discriminatory”, in the clearest response yet to the restrictions that are slowing the country’s reopening.
China closed its borders for three years and imposed a strict regime of general closures and continuous examinations, but it suddenly retreated from this path and headed towards coexistence with the virus on December 7, and this coincided with the spread of a wave of infections across the country.
Some countries were surprised by the size of the outbreak in China, and expressed doubts about Beijing’s statistics on corona, as the United States, South Korea, India, Italy, Japan and Taiwan obligated travelers from China to undergo corona checks.
“The real intention is to sabotage China’s three-year efforts to control the coronavirus and attack the country’s system,” the official Global Times newspaper said in an article published late Thursday, calling the restrictions “baseless” and “discriminatory.”
China will stop requiring all incoming travelers to undergo a quarantine starting from January 8, but will require a negative PCR test result to be submitted within 48 hours prior to arrival.
On Thursday, Italy urged the rest of the European Union to do the same, but France, Germany and Portugal said they did not see the need for new restrictions, while Austria stressed the economic benefits of returning Chinese tourists to Europe.
The United States has raised concerns about possible variants of the virus as it spreads in the world’s most populous country, as well as the transparency of data announced by China.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Reuters that it is considering examining wastewater samples from international aircraft to detect any new mutations.
And China announced the registration of a new death from Corona, Thursday, which is the same as the previous day’s outcome. These numbers are not in line with what other countries in the world have witnessed after reopening. The total official death toll in China since the start of the pandemic is 5,247, compared with more than a million in the United States. Hong Kong, under Chinese rule, has recorded more than 11,000 deaths.
China’s top epidemiologist, Wu Chunyu, said Thursday that a team from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention plans to assess deaths differently.
He added that the team will monitor the difference between the number of deaths in the current wave of infections and the expected number of deaths if the pandemic does not occur.
By calculating the “increase in deaths”, China will determine what may not have been properly assessed.
China said it only counts Covid-19 deaths from pneumonia and respiratory failure in the overall official deaths from the disease, according to Reuters.
On Friday, Japan began requiring corona tests for all passengers coming from China as part of an emergency measure against the rise in infections there, as Japan faces a record high number of cases and deaths at home, according to the Associated Press.
Japan reported 420 new coronavirus deaths Thursday, one day after reaching a previous single-day record of 415 deaths, according to the health ministry.
The numbers are higher than the daily deaths at the peak of a previous wave in August, when it topped 300.
Experts say the reason for the recent increase is not clear, but it could be linked to deaths from exacerbations of chronic diseases among elderly patients.
Japan tightened its border measures on Friday, making the antigen test already conducted on entrants suspected of having coronavirus compulsory for all people coming from China. Those who test positive will be quarantined for up to seven days in designated facilities and their samples will be used for genome analysis, according to the Associated Press.
The procedures began before the New Year holidays, in which there is a lot of travel and parties. Government officials said that direct flights between China and Japan will be limited to four major Japanese airports for now.
And Japan earlier this year stopped requiring coronavirus tests for arrivals who had received at least three doses, part of a subtle easing of measures after closing its borders to foreign tourists for nearly two years. This year’s holiday season is the first without virus restrictions other than recommendations for mask wearing and testing.
The country is now reporting about 200,000 known daily cases.
At a meeting earlier this week, experts warned that the rapid spread of influenza this winter could add pressure on medical systems, according to the Associated Press.
The United States joined a growing number of countries that decided to impose controls on passengers arriving from China, under precautionary measures that the head of the World Health Organization considered “understandable”, given the lack of information from Beijing after the lifting of restrictions imposed to combat Covid, according to AFP.
However, the health authorities in China confirmed Thursday that they have been publishing the data “in the interest of openness and transparency,” according to statements reported by the new Chinese news agency, “Xinhua”.
“China has always published its data on corona deaths and severe cases, out of a desire for openness and transparency,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Jiao Yahui, an official with the National Health Commission, as saying.
On Friday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced only 5,515 new cases and one death.
It seems that these numbers no longer reflect reality, because large-scale examinations are no longer applied.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s health agency has expressed its belief that imposing mandatory Covid-19 checks on travelers from China is “unjustified”.
The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that it does not believe that the high number of infections in China will affect the epidemiological situation in the bloc, “given the higher population immunity within the countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area, in addition to the fact that mutants that are currently circulating in China have previously appeared and subsequently changed.” .
Three years after the first cases of Covid-19 appeared in Wuhan (center), China abruptly canceled on December 7 its strict policy known as “Zero Covid”.
This policy has been in place since 2020, and has allowed the population to be largely protected from the virus, thanks to generalized testing, strict monitoring of movements and also to mandatory quarantine and health once cases are detected.
However, these harsh measures, which have kept the country largely isolated from the rest of the planet, dealt a severe blow to the world’s second largest economy and caused extraordinary discontent in November.
Since the restrictions were lifted, hospitals have been filled with patients, the majority of them old and frail from not being vaccinated, while many pharmacies lack fever-reducing medicines.
China has kept its borders largely closed to foreign nationals since 2020.
The country stopped issuing tourist visas about three years ago, while imposing mandatory quarantine upon arrival. This quarantine procedure will be lifted on January 8th, but the PCR test must still be taken 48 hours in advance.
In response, the United States and other countries, including Italy and Japan, announced that they would require all arrivals from mainland China to show negative corona examinations.
Likewise, South Korea made the same decision on Friday, and it is valid until “February next year,” according to its Prime Minister, Han Duk-soo.
And in France, President Emmanuel Macron asked the government to “take appropriate measures to protect” the French.
In Brussels, an informal meeting convened by the European Commission, aimed at developing a “coordinated approach” for member states, did not lead to a decision one way or the other.
At Beijing Capital International Airport, most Chinese people interviewed by AFP Thursday expressed their understanding of the measures taken towards China.
“Every country has its own fears and way of protecting itself,” said Huang Hongshu, 21, noting that the potential spread of new variants was a cause for concern.
A traveler told AFP that these measures were “useless”.
“It’s a bit of a discrimination,” said Hu, who declined to give his full name.
The 22-year-old indicated that in China, “our Corona policy is applied to international arrivals in the same way as everyone,” asking, “Why do other countries treat arrivals from China in particular?”
On the pandemic front, hospitals are grappling with a surge in cases that hit the elderly hardest.
In Shanghai, AFP journalists on Thursday saw patients wearing masks being transported on stretchers to a hospital in the city. Inside the hospital, a patient complained that he had to wait four hours for medication.